17 Dec 2009

Competition for stupidity

Once again, I am driven to comment on some things I see this morning.

Here we have 3 persons killed in a fire. Now, at first glance, this seems like another tragic story. However, although I sympathise with those who lost the victims, and as friends and family grieve, I must point out that the real tragedy of this story lie not in the deaths, but in stupidity. Of Nature’s laws, Survival of the Fittest still holds true.

The story gives, once again, that the family could not get past the burglar proofing. This is a common plight of most fire victims in Trinidad and Tobago, in that they build homes with poorly designed burglar proofing. There are no latches to open from the inside, and most times they are locked (with padlocks). There is no key hanging near the corresponding lock. Most times, the keys are kept in a big bunch, in a central location. I’ve seen it time and time again, and were I to conduct a Health and Safety check, many places would fail right off because of that.

In a fire, when adrenalin and fear are running high, no one would be able to quickly get to those keys – or they may be prevented from doing so by fire between them and where the keys are stored. Fiddling with numerous keys (to get the right key for the right lock) while the house is burning loses precious time.

Realising the house was padlocked, Dodough snatched up a broom handle and began smashing the glass windows. He said: "I screamed up Bobby's name and he and Fazeeda stumbled out. Bobby was burnt and his skin was falling off. He could not find the keys for the burglar-proofing.

Security experts always recommend that the burglar proofing be built with an escape latch, something that could cause the burglar proofing to fall open at the pull of a lever – or similar (from the inside). Some may argue that thieves and murderers can pull it from the outside to get in, but that is a weak argument if one follows the experts in a good design.

Police said Gabriel and her children died from smoke inhalation.

It is very easy to be overcome by heat and smoke in a fire. The flames are usually the last of worries. time spent fiddling with keys and burglar proofing is time to die, as shown in this case.

The second tragedy from this is that no one will learn from this painful lesson. Perhaps it is too common to qualify for the Darwin Awards, but heck, these deaths are definitely avoidable.

Another headline, sent to me by Fraulein, says this:

Trinidad and Tobago have overtaken Jamaica in a dubious distinction: the "murder capital of the Caribbean."

The story goes on to say:

While homicides increased two percent in Jamaica in 2008, murders were up 38 percent in Trinidad and Tobago.

The US and the UK issued travel advisories warning travelers about increasing violence and the failure of police in Tobago to apprehend and prosecute criminals.

A US travel advisory warns travelers that armed robbers have been trailing tourists as they depart international airports in Trinidad and Tobago. It said:

"Violent crimes, including assault, kidnapping for ransom, sexual assault and murder, have involved foreign residents and tourists (and) incidents have been reported involving armed robbers trailing arriving passengers from the airport and accosting them in remote areas…the perpetrators of many of these crimes have not been arrested."

With 550 homicides in 2008, Trinidad and Tobago has a rate of about 55 murders per 100,000 making it the most dangerous country in the Caribbean and one of the most dangerous in the world, according to press reports.

The rate of assaults, robbery, kidnapping and rape in Trinidad and Tobago is also among the highest in the world.

Yes indeed, we are gaining fame (or is it infamy?) thanks in part (but a great part) to Vision 2020 and those who race there.

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